DENVER (CBS4)– A package of gun control measures began its lengthy and emotional route through Colorado’s Legislature on Friday, with the House approving limits on the size of ammunition magazines and expanding background checks after hours of fiery debate about how to stop gun violence.
The Democratic chamber was poised to stay late into the night to give preliminary approval to other parts of the Democrats’ gun agenda, but not before withstanding strong opposition from Republicans.
The votes capping magazine sizes and requiring background checks for all gun purchases came after eight hours of debate. The votes were preliminary and unrecorded, but they were the first chance for many lawmakers to debate gun control after mass shootings last year in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.
“These high-capacity weapons have no place outside the fields of war,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the ammunition bill, which limits magazines to 15 rounds for all firearms, with a more restrictive eight-round limit for shotguns. The bill makes an exception for magazines that people already have in their possession.
Republicans in the chamber spent hours arguing that the limit violates Second Amendment rights. They also cited a Colorado gun manufacturer that has threatened to leave Colorado if the measure becomes law. The bill was amended to exempt that company, but Republicans still argued against the measure.
“We are not safer by limiting the constitutional rights of law-abiding firearm owners,” said Republican Rep. Frank McNulty.
A few Democrats appeared to agree Friday, though an exact vote count won’t be known until recorded votes are taken Monday. GOP leaders were hoping gun activists would spend the weekend pressuring rural Democrats like Rep. Ed Vigil of southern Colorado, the only Democrat who argued Friday against any ammunition limit.
“We should be going down the path of making mental health available to people who really need it,” Vigil argued.
The gun debate was at times emotional and pointed. One gun lobbyist was asked to leave the Capitol after a heated exchange off the floor with a Republican lawmaker who said the lobbyist was falsely accusing her of considering voting for the gun-control measures. The gallery was at times packed with gun-rights activists.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said favors some of the gun-control measures. Hickenlooper supports expanded background checks and indicated Thursday that he could support a potential amendment on magazine sizes, if the restriction was between 15 and 20 rounds.
He also said he thinks gun purchasers should pay for their background checks, but he had not made up his mind yet about the ban on concealed firearms on colleges, bills that were also being debated Friday.
All of the proposals still need to be considered by Democrat-controlled Senate.
Democrats in the Legislature said the time is right to limit gun access and magazine sizes to prevent more shootings.
“This is about kids who have been shot, over and over and over again,” said Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran said. “I am tired of seeing kids die, year after year, after year, after year.”
By Ivan Moreno, Kristen Wyatt, AP Writers(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)